If you were a child in the ’90s, you likely have fond memories connected to some purely delicious, completely processed foods. Even now, these foods get you excited just thinking about them — you remember the brightly-colored packaging, the cheesy commercials, and the dopamine hit after that first bite.
Granted, by health standards, these foods were what you might call, erm, pure garbage. Nonetheless, boy, do we miss carelessly devouring (or chugging) them! Read on to take a stroll down a sugar-laden, nutritionally abhorrent memory lane. Bonus: For days when you’re feeling really nostalgic and DGAF about the temporary insulin spike, you can still purchase some of these guilty pleasures.
These baseball-sized, speckled, rock-hard candies kept us kids occupied for hours. We licked and licked, sometimes so hard our tongues would actually bleed (and that was a good thing?). Ingredients included dextrose, glucose, calcium stearate… yum. Of course, all of us were wary after seeing the 1999 dark comedy with this candy’s name as the title, considering a character died from choking on a jawbreaker. At that point, it was eat at your own risk.
2. Drake’s Coffee Cakes
I was today years old when I learned that coffee cake does not contain any coffee. I guess it was something else making Drake’s Coffee Cakes as moist as can be. And that crumby streusel on top? Delicious! My guess would be the whopping 12 grams of added sugar in just one tiny cake (for reference, the AHA recommends about 24 grams total per day) contributed to its addictive taste.
If you’re old enough to have owned a lava lamp (mine was purple), you’re probably old enough to remember this short-lived flavored drink with tiny floating balls suspended throughout the beverage. With flavors like Charlie Brown Chocolate and Pineapple Banana Cherry Coconut, we’re just shocked it didn’t last. But don’t worry, you can still give it a try for just $65 if you bid on it on eBay.
Speaking of drinks that no one should ever be consuming, there was Surge — the alien-green citrus-flavored soda. This contained ingredients like maltodextrin, an additive known to spike blood sugar and give those angsty teenage boys that Surge marketed towards the sugar high they definitely did not need. And good news: It’s made a comeback before, so there’s still hope it’ll make its way back to shelves again.
5. Kid Cuisine
These “frozen food versions of a happy meal” made TV dinners not just for lonely men but for children too! Imagine getting macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and a brownie all in one meal? That really happened! I can just picture my naive excitement as I waited for the microwave to ding. If you’re looking for the occasional nostalgic treat, you can still find these at big box grocers like Walmart.
These cult favorites are still around today, but we can no longer justify them as a “healthy” way to start your day. Find any millennial, and you can engage in a heated debate on which was the best flavor: Cinnamon Sugar, S’Mores, Frosted Strawberry, or, dare I say, Frosted Grape? If you can pull deep into the archives of your brain, do you remember Pop-Tarts without any frosting? Maybe this commercial with none other than Joseph Gordon-Levitt will jog your memory.
7. SnackWell’s Cookies
For those kids of “health-conscious” parents, this brand was a staple in the snack drawer. The epitome of the fat-free craze, these cookies were eventually revamped with a “new and improved recipe” sans high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil. Alas, they just didn’t have the same appeal. It’s still a bit of a mystery why those utterly dry Devil’s Food cookies went down so easily.
Who doesn’t love the explosion of goo from Gushers? These “fruit” snacks are, let’s face it, candy. The first three ingredients are all forms of sugar (sugar, corn syrup, and dried corn syrup). The snack has stayed on the shelves all these years, lasting after the brand’s manufacturer, General Mills, got sued for claiming there were “no artificial flavors” — even though they used DL-malic acid, which is synthetically made from petroleum.
9. Bagel Bites
Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime… if you can finish this jingle, you should be using a retinol cream. These little pizza bites were served throughout households in the ’90s at literally any time of day. While the commercial claimed the pizza was served on “wholesome little bagels,” we all know that’s a stretch. Also, what was up with those dotted cheese squares that never fully melted? That said, we’re not mad that you can still buy these bad boys today.
10. Freezies/Otter Pops/Mr. Freeze Pop/Fla-vor-Ice
Depending on who you ask, these thin, impossible-to-open ice pops go by a variety of names. No matter what you call them, these sugary cool treats evoke feelings of the hottest summer days. Personally, they made my throat itch, and I’d constantly cough… which likely isn’t an indicator of a healthful snack. Maybe it was the sodium carboxymethyl cellulose?
11. Hostess Cupcakes
There was something so satisfying about pulling the entire chocolate frosted layer off the top of these little cupcakes. Chocolate cake with cream inside, that signature squiggly line on top — these were the top traders in the school lunchroom. The ingredient list is a long grouping of appealing words like “titanium dioxide” and “hydrogenated tallow.” Still, anyone going through a mid-life crisis can easily pick up a box at your nearest supermarket.
12. Flintstones Push-Ups
For a show that was on in the ’60s, The Flintstones really made an impact on ’90s food products. From vitamins to cereals, the Flintstones were branded on many tasty treats. For the kid who always dropped their ice cream off the cone or had their ice pop melt too quickly, Push-Ups proved to be the ultimate savior in frozen confectionary treats. Sherbert never tasted so good!
13. Sunny Delight
If only being a “cool mom” was as easy as the Sunny Delight, aka “Sunny D,” commercials of the ’90s made it seem. Stick that orange juice-adjacent beverage in the fridge, and all the kids in the neighborhood will be singing your praises. The commercial marketed that it contained some “healthy junk” and was “the good stuff that kids went for.” Knowing what we know now, we’re not likely to let our kids chug the sugary sweet beverage with gusto like we did — although we’re not ruling it out as a sometimes treat.
14. Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape
If you didn’t blow obnoxiously large bubbles in class when you were a child, did you even live? This iconic gum came in a measuring tape-inspired container and rolled up in there had over six feet of bubble gum that was “for you, not them.” We were very anti-establishment as kids, and the fact that our teachers (and, according to the commercial, bus drivers) hated Bubble Tape made it all the more appealing. Any gum with this much corn syrup and sugar can’t be good for teeth, and many of us have the cavities to prove it.
The ’90s really had a way of tricking us into eating junk food for breakfast. Kudos bars were probably the best granola bars any of us had ever eaten because they tasted like candy. And that checks out because that’s what they basically were. Made by Mars Incorporated (you know, the same people who make that go-to Halloween candy mix you buy every year), the bars eventually joined forces with other Mars products and featured M&M, Dove, and Snicker varieties.